What is the legality of prostitution in Bhutan?

What is the Legal Status of Prostitution in Bhutan?

Prostitution is illegal in Bhutan, a small landlocked country in South Asia, nestled between China and India. The country’s penal code explicitly prohibits engaging in, soliciting, or procuring prostitution. The government is committed to maintaining the country’s cultural heritage and values, which include a strong emphasis on spirituality and morality, making the sex trade unacceptable and punishable by law.

What are the Laws, Penalties, and Law Enforcement Strategies Regarding Prostitution?

Bhutan’s Penal Code contains several provisions related to prostitution:

  • Section 373 criminalizes engaging in prostitution and imposes a penalty of imprisonment for a term between one month and one year.
  • Section 372 prohibits soliciting for the purpose of prostitution and imposes a fine of three months’ national minimum wage or imprisonment for up to three months.
  • Section 376 prohibits procuring a person for prostitution, which is punishable by imprisonment for a term between one and five years.

Law enforcement strategies in Bhutan include the active investigation of suspected cases of prostitution, monitoring and regulating entertainment establishments where sex work may be conducted, and providing support and rehabilitation for individuals involved in the sex trade. However, due to the country’s remote location and limited resources, law enforcement efforts may not always be as effective as desired.

How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Bhutan?

In Bhutan, prostitution is often referred to as drayang or nights clubs. These establishments typically feature traditional Bhutanese music and dance performances, where patrons can pay for the company of female performers. While not all drayangs are associated with sex work, some have become notorious for offering sexual services in addition to their cultural performances. The term drayang girls has thus become synonymous with sex workers in Bhutan.

What is the History of Prostitution in Bhutan?

Historically, Bhutan has been an isolated and deeply spiritual country, with a predominantly Buddhist population. As such, prostitution has not been a widespread or culturally accepted practice. However, the modernization and opening of the country to the outside world, particularly through tourism and foreign influence, has led to the emergence of a small but significant sex trade. This is primarily centered around urban areas and entertainment establishments such as drayangs.

The government’s efforts to curb prostitution have included the regulation of drayangs, the establishment of a no tolerance policy towards sex work, and the implementation of educational programs aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of prostitution. Despite these efforts, the sex trade persists in Bhutan, fueled by factors such as poverty, unemployment, and a lack of educational and economic opportunities for women.

How Do Government Laws and Policies Impact Prostitution in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese government’s strong stance against prostitution has led to the implementation of strict laws and penalties, as well as efforts to regulate and monitor entertainment establishments. This has made it more difficult for sex work to be conducted openly, driving the trade further underground and increasing the risks faced by those involved.

Furthermore, the criminalization of prostitution can deter sex workers from seeking help or reporting instances of violence and abuse, due to fear of legal repercussions. This can make them more vulnerable to exploitation and limit their access to essential support services, such as healthcare and counseling.

Despite the challenges posed by the government’s efforts to eradicate prostitution, there is a growing recognition of the need to address the underlying social and economic factors that drive individuals into the sex trade. By focusing on providing education, economic opportunities, and support for vulnerable populations, the Bhutanese government may be able to more effectively combat the issue of prostitution in the long term.

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